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Ranil admits 'failure' of government to ensure security

Sri Lanka's prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today admitted the government's "failure" to ensure security which could have prevented the Easter Sunday bombings which killed over 250 people across the island. 

Speaking to Sky News, Ranil said there had been a "breakdown in government machinery" with intelligence not being passed on to himself and other ministers 

"If we had known the information and we had not acted then I would certainly say the government had to be held responsible and [should] leave office." 

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In an interview with Channel 4, Ranil evaded his responsibility as prime minister in ensuring security, laying blame at the feet of the president. 

Ranil: On this occassion solid information did come and the issue is why that information was not communicated to all relevant parties

Channel 4: If you're not in charge of law and order, how are you the prime minister? Isn't the first job of the prime minister the security of the nation

Ranil: Yes and in the Cabinet we are responsible for that. But as you know law and order is a different minister.

Channel 4: Yes but there isn't one, that's the point isn't it?

Ranil: Yes, the function has been taken over by defences. 

Channel 4: Who is in charge right now of law and order right now, are you? 

Ranil: At the moment it is the president. 

Channel 4: So even though, the President has failed clearly in his responsibility to protect the nation, he is still in charge of that? 

Ranil: We are talking to him about this major restructuring of the government machinery and the security machinery. 

Asked whether some of the bombers remained on the run, Ranil answered, "some are on the run,  we don't know if whether they have explosives or they have hidden it somewhere." 

Speaking to NDTV earlier this week, Ranil admitted that it had received prior warning from India. 

"India gave us the intelligence but there has been a lapse on how we acted on that... intelligence was not conveyed down the line," Ranil was quoted as saying.  

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Ranil's comments come as the Defence Secretary, Hemasiri Fernando, resigned today taking responsibility for the failures of institutions under his remit, whilst rejecting any failure on his part. 

Addressing parliament this week, the Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella said, “information was there, but the top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions." 

According to Reuters, Sri Lanka's security services were also informed of an imminent attack by Islamist bombers hours before the attacks.

The opposition's Keheliya Rambukwella criticised the government's security lapses and Ranil's claims he was not made aware of intelligence. 

"How do you deal with this? The president and the prime minister are part of the same government, and they are blaming each other,” Rambukwella was quoted by Reuters as saying. 

“You would normally expect the opposition to be playing the blame game. But we don’t need to, they are busy attacking each other, we are in fact saying please get together and sort it out, so the country can unitedly face the challenge.”

Over 250 people were killed by bomb blasts at hotels and churches across the island including in Batticaloa, Colombo and Negombo. 

The prime minister described the suspected attackers "as middle class" and "educated abroad", adding that they had been monitored by security services but didn't have enough information to detain them. 

Sri Lanka would be looking to bring legislation making the joining of a foreign terrorist organisation a criminal offence.